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Laura* was a 13-year-old girl in Mexico when a 30-year-old man befriended her and promised her a house, work and school in Los Angeles. He said he just wanted to help her to be able to help support her mother and younger sisters in Mexico. Instead he kept her locked up in his Los Angeles apartment for two years, raped her, and forced her to cook and clean for him.
One day she finally convinced him to allow her to go to the store for groceries. Although she did not speak a word of English, and thought she would certainly be deported, she immediately called the police. Laura was interviewed extensively by the police and testified against her perpetrator in court. She was placed in foster care in California and sent to school, where she graduated from high school. However, no one around her addressed her immigration status.
At the age of 18, she was released from foster care, and not knowing what to do, came to live in Iowa with a cousin. After living and working in Iowa without legal status for three years, Laura came to Iowa Justice for Our Neighbors for help.
Because she had been a victim of a violent crime, IA JFON assisted her in applying for a U-visa, which provides legal immigration status for victims of violent crimes who have suffered hardship because of the crime and who have assisted law enforcement officials with the investigation of the crime.
Laura has now married and has a young son. She also has a work permit, and legal status in the United States for the first time. Laura is on her way to eventually becoming a U.S. citizen.
*We do not use the real names of our clients.